Remember how shocking it was when twenty-two utter fools actually managed to pair up correctly at the very last minute of the seventh season of Are You the One? Remember the fleeting look of accomplishment smeared across their faces as they sauntered off that island with approximately $40,000 and some very probable invitations to appear on even more reality shows in the way-too-near-future for my comfort? Remember when this cast acted like they were entirely capable of forgetting all the fighting and the furniture smashing and the sociopathic bullshit they’d inflicted on one another all summer long? Remember how they instead clung to one another super tightly and swore they’d be like family until the very last second of time? Well, it seems time is relative and this little televised family is even more dysfunctional than the Manson Family after a particularly potent acid trip. The sweet goodbye that blasted across our airwaves occurred months ago and the sweetness between these people faded – much like genital warts eventually do. Now it’s Reunion time, most of these people officially hate one another, and if you’re surprised that the majority of these relationships didn’t work out in the long run, you too are an idiot and such a thing means you should immediately apply to be on this show because you’d be a motherfucking natural.
My sweet readers, several zillion ultra-important questions have been swirling round and round inside of my head since Are You the One? aired a new episode. It’s sort of been hard to sleep, what with my grave fears about what could happen (nothing) should Nutsa and Brett turn out not to be an MTV-approved soulmate match. And that concern isn’t even slightly comparable to the wave of stomach-clenching terror I sometimes feel (it’s probably just cramps) when it dawns on me that this right here will be the very last time these people can try to pair up correctly. But the most ominous question weighing heavy inside of me (along with that fistful of Twix I consumed on Halloween night…and then the next night…and then the night after that) is the question about these contestants and their futures. Let’s just face it – the vast majority came on this show not to find temporary love, but to snag themselves very non-temporary careers as H-list reality stars on every show this network produces until the end of fucking time. I’m pretty sure what’s really been keeping me up nights is how very certain I feel that the very worst of these people are not going anywhere.
Since my mommy and my daddy committed a long time ago to the act of effective parenting, I was raised to be a decent human being. As such, I was able to muster up a bit of empathy for Kwasi when he lost whatever was left of his sanity. I mean, the man crumbled into the lap of a producer while wailing, “I came here for love!” Who amongst us hasn’t had a moment where real love seemed unattainable? Unfortunately, my empathy sort of shriveled up and died rather quickly because though I do happen to be a decent human being, I am also a smart human being and – though it saddens me to say this – intelligence and pragmatism kicks decency’s ass pretty much every time. And so as a smart person, I find myself feeling exactly nothing for Kwasi as he experiences a televised breakdown because what kind of faulty planning must be involved for you to decide that your greatest chance of finding forever love will occur if you enter a house loaded with booze, exhibitionists, exhibitionists drinking booze, something called The Boom Boom Room, and fifty-three cameras? And what insane lies did you need to tell yourself so you could become convinced that a show that’s been on for seven seasons and has ended with most of the couples breaking up both publicly and rather spectacularly would be your emotional safety net? As I cannot even force the decent side of my brain to attempt such a leap in logic, the only thing I feel for Kwasi right now is the hope that there’s some Xanax on the premises.
Romeo and Juliet. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Holden Caulfield and that metaphorical kid he keeps trying to save over there in the rye. Kim Kardashian and herself. What do all these pairings have in common? I think the main link between them is a level of adoration that borders on the obsessive. What these people feel for one another (and what Kardashian seems to feel for herself) is the kind of adoration that’s so powerful, its very presence causes the world to feel electrically charged. And now it’s time to add another couple to this illustrious list, so let’s all grasp hands and welcome Tevin and Kenya! They are the stars of what I like to call THE GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TO BE TOLD ON REALITY TELEVISION AS THE APOCALYPSE LOOMS. Tevin, you see, is a modern day Renaissance man. Okay, I actually have no idea what the kid does, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say he’s an artist who happens to look a great deal like one of the greatest lipsynchers of our time so I’ve decided that factor alone makes him Renaissance-adjacent. His for-right-now beloved is Kenya, a woman who enjoys sitting on the lap of her ex-boyfriend probably way more than she should. But ever since that most recent ex left the island, Kenya decided that it might be kind of fun to settle and she declared her love for a very sweet (but a very very dim) Tevin. And guess what?! The MTV-sanctioned “relationship experts” (anyone besides me want to see the degree that officially deems these people experts?) agree with her! The lights of that Truth Booth – the ones that don’t actually do anything integral to the process – pass over their bodies and we learn that this house filled with emotional misfits has finally identified another perfect match! There are cheers and shouts of elation, but if you listen carefully, I’m pretty sure you can also hear the sound of nails and a very busy hammer. That noise? Oh, that’s Shamoy and Maria. They’re barricading the door of their until-now private Honeymoon Suite. Wouldn’t you do the exact same thing?
The last episode ended with a cliffhanger, but I feel compelled to assure you that I managed to sleep soundly all week long, even though I didn’t know with absolute certainty whether or not Cali’s ceremony strategy worked. Sure, the melatonin spray I’ve recently fallen in a deep sort of love with helped, but my restful slumber was really due to the fact that it’s almost impossible to care if beams of light will eventually illuminate the nighttime sky in a dramatic visual that’s meant to make us cheer for the success of these people instead of doing what we should be doing: shaking our heads at their continued idiocy. In any case, the results come back, they get four beams, and this definitively proves that Cam and Kayla and Cali and Tomas are not matches. This result also proves these people still have no earthly idea what they’re doing and Terrence J shakes his head at them like a disappointed parent. His reaction reminds me a lot of that one time I came home from a party in high school with hickies lining my entire neck and I swore to my mother that we’d all just sucked on each other’s necks for fun and of course nothing sexual had gone down, but she didn’t believe me for a single second because the woman has a brain. But instead of my neck, let’s talk about Kayla. Poor Kayla. Now officially one of the dethroned self-described “power couples,” she sits in the confessional wearing a bustier I don’t for one moment believe is actually her own and she bursts into tears because Cam is not the man MTV said she was meant to be with. Don’t despair, Kayla! If you miss the guy after you leave the island, I’m sure you will be able to find him at some Hitler-esque rally. He will be easy to spot; he may very well be the only African American in the crowd cheering about the destruction of our civil liberties.
Lewis made a choice last week and that choice was to consciously blow whatever was left of Asia’s self-esteem to smithereens. And since I am a decent human being, I view Lewis’ choice as unacceptable for one simple reason: it was completely avoidable. As far as I can tell, these people have themselves a ton of free time over there in Hawaii. During every single episode, we are shown bullshit slow-motion footage (not a bit of which enhances the narrative) of guys lifting weights or a few moments of the group gleefully tossing beanbags through holes in the yard, so my assumption is there has got to be at least fifteen minutes one can carve out each day to get in a moment of personal reflection. In all of those fifteen minutes, Lewis never once sat down and came up with a compassionate reason he could offer Asia to explain why they do not belong together romantically? Because he could have told her he believes they are not an intellectual match since he is, at heart, a total fucking idiot. He could have sworn he values her presence in his life as a friend so greatly that he is not willing to risk changing their status.
He did not have to tell Asia that he finds her unattractive. He did not have to say words that now leave her bemoaning why she will never be physically enough for a moron.
I weep for the woman who is Lewis’ actual match. I also really hope that woman is Bria.
We’ve officially reached the point in Are You the One? where it’s hard to know just who to root for. Several of the contestants have by now proved themselves to be completely loathsome in terms of how they process frustration and anger. Others seem entirely committed to forever being defined by the insulting tags MTV anointed them with that define how they typically behave in relationships. Are we really expected to root for “The Forever Side Piece” even as she continues to vie to be that Side Piece? Is anyone desperately pulling for a man who, by his own admission, morphs into an aggressive beast when he gets angry? As a viewer, I’m starting to feel just as pissed off as some of the people on the show, but I think it’s important for a reality TV watcher to have a stake in the televised proceedings. With that in mind, I have officially decided to root for whichever volcano is nearest to the house where these people are staying because it might be lovely to deal with some actual lava for a change instead of the bubbling fury that emits from the mouths of those pretending to search for love in between fistfights.
So the last episode ended with the group only nailing one new measly beam of light and Terrence J telling them their process has been nothing but trash. The episode also ended with Zak rolling his eyes at Bria’s continuing stalker tendencies, which means the two of them will surely hook up tonight because Zak is the only person on the planet who saw Fatal Attraction and walked away thinking that being flattered was the point of the movie.
After the relationship retreat – where exes showed up to berate people they’ve already spent years emotionally abusing – finally ends, it’s time to get back to a more standard episode (complete with the more standard forms of abuse) of Are You the One? It’s morning now on the island and rain is falling in great buckets from the sky. Neon paint is potentially forever tattooed on the dirty feet of our contestants and Samantha is ready to move far beyond the bullshit of her ex and into a relationship where the guy she’s with is more than happy to post her face all over his Instagram. Over in the yoga yurt, Asia and Tevin are doing some deep breathing exercises before he explains that watching Kenya avoid him all last night so she could cuddle with her ex hurt him so deeply that he was forced to suck on Jasmine’s lips in an outdoor shower while cameras filmed them. Tevin’s not sure what all this back and forth hurting of one another means for his future with Kenya, though if he could hear me as I scream at my TV, he would know it means that their relationship is doomed beyond repair and he’s gonna have to learn a far more effective coping mechanism in the coming days besides deep inhalations of breath. By the way, Kenya is thrilled with how last night went because she was able to spoon with her ex-boyfriend all the while knowing Tevin will always take her back, though Jasmine – the Perpetual Side Piece – now thinks she and Tevin will be together forever and she was right to swallow her dignity for a couple of weeks and just wait for the perfect moment when Tevin had to lower himself to his second choice. What word means the exact opposite of “romance”? Because that's the word that perfectly defines this entire situation.
There are those collective anxiety dreams a ton of us share. You know the ones I’m talking about, right? The nocturnal miseries I tend to experience on repeat are of having to run but not being able to move or searching for a classroom to go take some test I didn’t study for in a class I’ve cut for an entire semester. I’ve only had the delightful whoops-I-just-showed-up-in-public-naked dream once, but I do often awake knowing I’ve just been tormented through a final REM cycle because Dream Me ran into one or three of my exes when I was least expecting it – and when my hair looked like shit. Well, MTV has decided to take that last night terror and make it real on tonight’s Are You the One? while ostensibly still pretending that every hideous thing they are doing is all in our contestants’ very best interests.